I recently read DJ Kirkby’s memoir From Zaftig to Aspie. It is no longer available to buy. The reason for that is the same as the only thing I disliked about the book – the mistakes. So I’m not going to write a review. I’ll just mention the things that stuck out, for me.

I was expecting more about what it’s like to have Asperger’s syndrome. There was certainly something of that, but a lot more about DJ’s unusual upbringing. I wasn’t disappointed, just surprised.

After describing her first smoke, DJ writes, “Thus began a love affair which was to continue for the next twenty years and that still tries to lure me into its poisonous rapture eight years after the last puff left my lungs.” I’ve never smoked, but I think that’s pretty normal. People who enjoy smoking don’t usually grow to hate cigarettes after they give up the habit. Their craving is always there in the background.

That reminds me of a BBC article about stammering that I read recently. In it, a successful headmaster who used to stammer says, “I don’t think any stammerer ever loses the fear.”

I think that’s a very interesting statement, not least because I think the same is true of social anxiety. In my view, no one is ever completely cured of social anxiety. Certainly, people I’ve met who claim they no longer suffer from the disorder don’t appear that way to me. Some so-called former sufferers might learn to present a confident façade, but the thoughts associated with social anxiety never go away. I don’t see that as a loser’s attitude. On the contrary. It means I don’t have to perform the seemingly impossible feat of crushing those anxiety-inducing thoughts. I have to “feel the fear and do it anyway,” to say what I have to say despite the thoughts.

The other thing that struck me in From Zaftig to Aspie was the similarities between Asperger’s and social anxiety. Despite the obvious difference – that people with Asperger’s often fail to understand the feelings of others, while those with social anxiety take too much notice of them – there are some similar consequences: a lack of communication skills, difficulties in recognising faces.

So this memoir has caused me to reflect on various issues. I might write more about those issues in future posts.

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